What Happened When A School District Held Class As Usual During Wednesday’s Subzero Weather
Subzero temperatures closed schools across central and northern Illinois Wednesday, and many remained closed on Thursday. But the Chrisman Community Unit School District 6 in Edgar County held classes as usual --- although the results were not what its superintendent had expected.
Chrisman Superintendent James Acklin says that, as long as the roads were clear, he believed the 319 students in his small rural district would be better off at school during severe weather, especially since 40 percent of them are in the free or reduced lunch program.
“You know, if we can get kids here safely, we’ve got heat in the building, let’s make sure that we’re feeding those kids that maybe have insufficient food at home,” said Acklin, who adds he had discussed the policy with the Chrisman school board back on October.
Acklin says he also thought keeping the schools open would be good for students who don’t have a parent at home during the day. So, on Wednesday, when other schools in the area shut down, Chrisman schools stayed open.
The Chrisman school district is centered around the towns of Chrisman and Scottland in northeast Edgar County. The district covers 88 square miles, which is small for a rural school district. The district’s small size limits its bus routes, and Acklin says he believed that would make it easier to keep classes open during Wednesday’s subzero temperatures. Acklin says he and one of the district’s principals made a point of driving through the streets of Chrisman Wednesday morning to pick up any students that might be walking to school in the freezing weather (they didn’t find any).
But it was clear that many families in the Chrisman district were not on board with the policy. Absenteeism on Wednesday was high, at 46 percent. And Acklin says nearly three quarters of the no-shows were the kids on free or reduced lunch that he wanted to help.
“So we’re not pulling in those kiddoes like we hoped that we would,” said Acklin.
Acklin says he’s granting excused absences to students whose parents contacted the district to let them know they were keeping them out of class on Wednesday. And he says he’ll be rethinking the policy of keeping class open during severe weather.
“Moving forward, if we’re only seeing a little over half of our student body here, and more specifically, if a large percentage of those that we were hoping would come in and take advantage of the free and reduced lunch are staying home, then maybe it’s time to rethink all that,” said Acklin, who plans to review the matter with the school district’s administrators and school board.